What happens when body tissue samples are taken

If there is a post mortem, the pathologist will probably take some body tissue samples to do some tests. The tests can help them learn why the person died.

The samples might be small pieces from organs like the lungs and heart, or fluid like blood.

Most samples are no bigger than a dollar coin. They often get used up in the tests. If the sample isn’t destroyed during the testing, you can ask for it to be returned to you. Samples will not be returned until the coroner has closed the inquiry. This might take several months or even years.

Sometimes the pathologist might want to keep some of the tissue in case better tests are developed in the future. The pathologist is not allowed to keep any body tissue sample unless the coroner says so.

Apply to have the tissue samples returned to you

  1. Fill in this form:
    Request for return of body parts or body samples [PDF, 507 KB]
  2. Send the form to Coronial Services within 5 days of being told that the samples have been kept.

What happens when samples are returned

When the samples are ready for return, the Ministry of Justice or an agency it contracts will contact you and organise the return.

You’ll get a small box. Inside, the sample will be triple-sealed – perhaps in a test tube or in a wax slide.

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